Eddins v. Commissioner of Social Security Administration et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION and ORDER. The undersigned AFFIRMS the decision of the Commissioner for the reasons discussed herein. Signed by Magistrate Judge Amanda Maxfield Green on 11/14/2023. (rb)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
WESTERN DISTRICT OF OKLAHOMA
KILOLO KIJAKAZI, Acting
Commissioner of Social Security,
Case No. CIV-23-51-AMG
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Lawana Eddins (“Plaintiff”) brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for
judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration (“SSA”) denying her application for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”)
under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-34.
Commissioner has filed the Administrative Record (“AR”) (Doc. 6), and the parties have
fully briefed the issues (Docs. 8, 14). 1 The parties have consented to proceed before the
undersigned Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1). (Docs. 9, 10). Based on
the Court’s review of the record and issues presented, the Court AFFIRMS the
Citations to the parties’ briefs refer to the Court’s CM/ECF pagination. Citations to the
Administrative Record refer to its original pagination.
Plaintiff filed an application for DIB on August 7, 2019. (AR, at 50, 76). The SSA
denied the application initially and on reconsideration.
(Id. at 99, 129).
administrative hearing was held on June 27, 2022, (id. at 45-75), at which Plaintiff
amended her disability onset date to April 1, 2020, (id. at 50).
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) issued a decision finding that Plaintiff was not disabled.
(Id. at 23-44). The Appeals Council subsequently denied Plaintiff’s request for review.
(Id. at 1-7). Thus, the ALJ’s decision became the final decision of the Commissioner. See
Wall v. Astrue, 561 F.3d 1048, 1051 (10th Cir. 2009); 20 C.F.R. § 404.981.
The Disability Standard and Standard of Review
The Social Security Act defines “disability” as the “inability to engage in any
substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental
impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected
to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). A
physical or mental impairment is an impairment “that results from anatomical,
physiological, or psychological abnormalities which are demonstrable by medically
acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(3). A
medically determinable impairment must be established by “objective medical evidence”
from an “acceptable medical source,” such as a licensed physician or a licensed and
certified psychologist; whereas the claimant’s own “statement of symptoms, a diagnosis,
or a medical opinion” is not sufficient to establish the existence of an impairment. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1521; see 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1502(a), 404.1513(a). A plaintiff is disabled
under the Social Security Act “only if his physical or mental impairment or impairments
are of such severity that he is not only unable to do his previous work but cannot,
considering his age, education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of
substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A).
Social Security regulations implement a five-step sequential process to evaluate a
disability claim. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520; Williams v. Bowen, 844 F.2d 748, 750-51 (10th
Cir. 1988) (explaining five steps and burden-shifting process). To determine whether a
claimant is disabled, the Commissioner inquires: (1) whether the claimant is engaged in
any substantial gainful activity; (2) whether the claimant suffers from a severe impairment
or combination of impairments; (3) whether the impairment meets an impairment listed in
Appendix 1 of the relevant regulation; (4) considering the Commissioner’s assessment of
the claimant’s residual functional capacity (“RFC”), 2 whether the impairment prevents the
claimant from continuing claimant’s past relevant work; and (5) considering assessment of
the RFC and other factors, whether the claimant can perform other types of work existing
in significant numbers in the national economy.
20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(i)-(v).
Plaintiff bears the “burden of establishing a prima facie case of disability under steps one,
two, and four” of the SSA’s five-step procedure. Fischer-Ross v. Barnhart, 431 F.3d 729,
731 (10th Cir. 2005). If the plaintiff makes this prima facie showing, “the burden shifts to
the Commissioner to show the claimant has the [RFC] to perform other work in the national
economy in view of [claimant’s] age, education, and work experience.” Id. “The claimant
RFC is “the most [a claimant] can still do despite [a claimant’s] limitations.” 20 C.F.R. §
is entitled to disability benefits only if [Claimant] is not able to perform other work.” Bowen
v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 142 (1987).
This Court’s review of the Commissioner’s final decision is limited “to
determin[ing] whether the Commissioner applied the correct legal standards and whether
the agency’s factual findings are supported by substantial evidence.”
Commissioner, SSA, 952 F.3d. 1172, 1177 (10th Cir. 2020) (citation omitted). Substantial
evidence is “more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance.” Lax v. Astrue, 489 F.3d
1080, 1084 (10th Cir. 2007). “It means – and means only – such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Biestek v. Berryhill,
139 S.Ct. 1148, 1154 (2019) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). A court’s
review is based on the administrative record, and a court must “meticulously examine the
record as a whole, including anything that may undercut or detract from the ALJ’s findings
in order to determine if the substantiality test has been met.” Grogan v. Barnhart, 399 F.3d
1257, 1261 (10th Cir. 2005). While the court considers whether the ALJ followed the
applicable rules of law in weighing particular types of evidence in disability cases, the court
will “neither reweigh the evidence nor substitute [its] judgment for that of the agency.”
Vigil v. Colvin, 805 F.3d 1199, 1201 (10th Cir. 2015) (internal quotation marks omitted).
Even if a court might have reached a different conclusion, the Commissioner’s decision
stands if it is supported by substantial evidence. See White v. Barnhart, 287 F.3d 903, 908
(10th Cir. 2002).
The Administrative Decision
At Step One, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since April 1, 2020, the amended alleged onset date. (AR, at 28). At Step Two,
the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: “systemic lupus
erythematosus (SLE); fibromyalgia; and degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine (20
CFR 404.1520(c)).” (Id. at 29). At Step Three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had no
impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of
one of the listed impairments. (Id. at 32). The ALJ then determined that Plaintiff had the
to perform medium work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(c) except with the
following additional limitations. [Plaintiff] can lift and carry, push, and pull
40 pounds occasionally and 25 pounds frequently; can frequently stoop and
balance, can occasionally kneel, crawl, crouch, and climb ramps, stairs, and
can never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. She can frequently handle and
finger and must never be exposed to unprotected heights or dangerous,
(Id. at 33). Then, at Step Four, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was able to perform her
“past relevant work as a composite job of cafeteria assistant and child monitor.” (Id. at
37). Thus, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not been under a disability. (Id. at 38).
Claims Presented for Judicial Review
On appeal, Plaintiff raises one issue, that the RFC is not supported by substantial
evidence because it fails to properly account for “four medical opinions that limited
[Plaintiff] to light work or less than light work” as well as “medical evidence
document[ing] significant pain related to her physical impairments that was exacerbated
by movement.” (Doc. 8, at 1). In response, the Commissioner argues that “substantial
evidence in the form of the objective medical exam findings, Plaintiff’s reported daily
living activities, and her part-time work activity, support the ALJ’s RFC finding,” and that
Plaintiff’s claim “is an invitation for the Court to reweigh the evidence and reach a different
conclusion, which the Court should not do on substantial evidence review.” (Doc. 14, at
10). The Court agrees with the Commissioner.
The ALJ’s Formulation of the RFC Is Supported By Substantial Evidence.
At Step Four, the ALJ discussed various pieces of evidence in support of his RFC
determination. (AR, at 33-37). First, the ALJ considered the testimony of Plaintiff at her
hearing, that she has “pain in her knees, feet, and hips and that she cannot stand or sit for
very long” and has “pain in her legs.” (Id. at 33). He considered Plaintiff’s testimony “that
she can stand for 20 to 25 minutes at a time, walk for 20 to 30 minutes at a time, and sit for
20 to 25 minutes at a time;” “that she is able to bend but it causes pain;” and “that she
cannot squat or crawl but that she can kneel.” (Id.) He discussed a written functional report
prepared by Plaintiff noting similar limitations but also “indicat[ing] that she had no
problem performing personal care activities, could prepare simple meals, do laundry, clean
bathrooms, drive, shop in stores, and go out alone,” and a report prepared by Plaintiff’s
spouse with similar representations. (Id. at 34) (citing AR, at 341-48, 357-64). However,
“[a]fter careful consideration of the evidence,” the ALJ found that Plaintiff’s “statements
concerning the intensity, persistence and limiting effects of [her] symptoms are not entirely
consistent with the medical evidence and other evidence in the record for the reasons
explained in [his] decision.” (Id.)
The ALJ then extensively discussed the medical evidence beginning shortly before
the amended alleged onset date of April 1, 2020, through May 2022, and contrasted
Plaintiff’s subjective allegations with largely mild to normal findings upon examination
and x-rays and her contemporaneous employment and other physical activities. (Id. at 3435). The ALJ also noted several times Plaintiff’s successful use of medication to control
her pain throughout this time period. (Id. at 34). In summary, the ALJ found:
In evaluating [Plaintiff’s] symptoms under SSR 16-3p, I find the evidence
only partially supports the alleged loss of functioning. [Plaintiff] has
described daily activities that are not limited to the extent one would expect,
given the complaints of disabling symptoms and limitations. As mentioned
earlier, although not at substantial gainful activity levels, the record reflects
work activity after the amended alleged onset date. [Plaintiff] testified that
she went back to her previous job as a lunch monitor part-time from August
to December 2021. Her treatment records also indicate that she stopped
working in order to care for her grandchild full-time, five days per week.
Although [Plaintiff] testified that she does not regularly take care of her
grandchild, she has told her treatment provider that she does on multiple
occasions, including recently in May 2022 (Exhibits 20F, p. 10; 28, p. 8).
Additionally, although [Plaintiff] has complained of joint pain throughout
the time period at issue, as mentioned above, the medical records had not
shown a significant change in her reported pain level from before she stopped
working full-time (Exhibit 6F, p. 22, 27, 33, 38, 44) to after the amended
alleged onset date (Exhibits 6F, p. 2, 12, 17; 12F, p. 3). Furthermore,
although [Plaintiff] has had some tender or swollen joints noted upon
examination in some of her treatment records, her treatment provider does
not indicate what specific joints are swollen or tender and [Plaintiff] has
continued to have intact motor strength and reported walking for exercise
throughout the evidence of record (Exhibits 6F, p. 2, 7, 10, 12; 7F, p. 15;
12F, p. 3, 6; 16F, p. 5; 20F, p. 5; 22F, p. 14; 25F, p. 5).
(Id. at 35-36).
The ALJ then considered the medical opinions of state agency medical consultants
Mattheen Khan, M.D., and David Coffman, M.D., that Plaintiff should be limited to light
work and did “not find them to be fully persuasive” as only “partially supported by the
medical evidence,” which “documents long-standing treatment for her lupus . . . as well as
some reduced motion of her spine,” but “also showed [Plaintiff] to have intact motor
strength, a normal gait, and to ambulate well.” (Id. at 36). The ALJ noted that one of the
treatment records referenced by the consultants “indicated that [Plaintiff] was doing
projects, such as painting the interior of her house.” (Id.) Additionally, the ALJ found the
consultants’ “assessments are inconsistent with the evidence as a whole, which has not
shown a significant change in [Plaintiff’s] conditions or abilities from before the amended
alleged onset date, when she engaged in substantial gainful activity.” (Id.) The ALJ
referenced the evidence that Plaintiff worked as a part-time lunch monitor, took care of her
grandchild, and walked for exercise. (Id.)
The ALJ considered the disability placard form prepared by treatment provider Ana
Kumar, M.D., which stated that Plaintiff “is severely limited in her ability to walk,” but he
found this opinion unpersuasive as “unsupported by [Dr. Kumar’s] own treatment records,
which indicate that [Plaintiff] has no difficulty ambulating,” and “inconsistent with the
evidence of record indicating that [Plaintiff] walks for exercise.” (Id. at 37). Likewise, the
ALJ found that Dr. Kumar’s opinion placing “very significant” limitations on Plaintiff’s
ability to work was “unsupported by Dr. Kumar’s own treatment records, which indicate
that [Plaintiff] had no difficulty ambulating, and has had a normal gait and intact motor
strength upon several examinations.” (Id.) The ALJ also found “[t]he limitations are . . .
inconsistent with the evidence as a whole,” including Plaintiff’s reports that she was
repetitively lifting her grandchild, caring for the grandchild five days a week, and was
previously working at a job five days a week at which she was not allowed to sit down and
routinely performed tasks involving fingering, feeling, and handling objects. (Id.)
And the ALJ considered the opinion of treatment provider Bettina Veronneau, M.D.,
“that she believes [Plaintiff] is capable of working at a more sedentary position,” and “[did]
not find it to have much persuasive value.” (Id.) The ALJ stated that the opinion was “not
entirely supported by Dr. Veronneau’s own records which indicated that [Plaintiff] had
reported being busy doing home projects and working in the yard.” (Id.) The ALJ also
found the opinion “inconsistent with the evidence as a whole,” which showed that Plaintiff
went back to work part-time at a job that required her to stand throughout her shift and also
showed that Plaintiff was repetitively lifting her grandchild. (Id.)
The ALJ concluded:
Based on the foregoing, I find [Plaintiff] has the above residual functional
capacity assessment, which is supported by the medical evidence and by the
finding that [Plaintiff’s] subjective allegations are not entirely consistent with
the evidence of record as a whole. I have accounted for the full effects of the
[Plaintiff’s] impairments in limiting her to the above listed reduced range of
medium work with the additionally included limitations.
Plaintiff’s sole argument is that “[s]ubstantial evidence does not support the ALJ’s
conclusion that [Plaintiff] could perform a range of medium work” because “[c]onsistent
with the medical records, each of the four medical opinions in the record indicated
[Plaintiff] could perform a range of light work or even less exertional ability.” (Doc. 8, at
But the ALJ appropriately analyzed these opinions 3 and found them to be
unpersuasive based on the physicians’ treatment records, other medical evidence of record,
and the Plaintiff’s employment and physical activities during the relevant time period.
Likewise, the ALJ adequately supported his RFC limiting Plaintiff to a reduced range of
medium work with normal to mild findings in the objective medical evidence, the evidence
that medication had been successful in alleviating Plaintiff’s pain, and Plaintiff’s selfreported activities, like working part-time, taking care of her grandchild, painting her
house, doing yard work, and walking for exercise. And the ALJ adequately explained why
that evidence was inconsistent with Plaintiff’s reported disabling pain.
“[E]xact correspondence between a medical opinion and the . . . RFC is not
required.” Wells v. Colvin, 727 F.3d 1061, 1071 (10th Cir. 2013). Indeed, “there is no
requirement in the regulations for a direct correspondence between an RFC finding and a
specific medical opinion on the functional capacity in question. The ALJ, not a physician,
is charged with determining a claimant’s RFC from the medical record.” Chapo v. Astrue,
682 F.3d 1285, 1288 (10th Cir. 2012) (brackets and internal quotation marks omitted); see
also SSR 96-5P, 1996 WL 374183, at *5 (July 2, 1996) (“Although an adjudicator may
decide to adopt all of the opinions expressed in a medical source statement, a medical
source statement must not be equated with the administrative finding known as the RFC
The ALJ followed the regulations for analyzing medical opinions and administrative
medical findings, which require the ALJ to articulate how persuasive he finds the opinion
and to explain how he considered the supportability and consistency factors. See 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520c. Plaintiff does not argue otherwise.
Plaintiff now asks the Court to reconsider the evidence before the ALJ and reach a
different conclusion. Plaintiff’s request that the Court remand on that basis is nothing more
than a request to reweigh the evidence, and this Court must decline that request. Allman v.
Colvin, 813 F.3d 1326, 1333 (10th Cir. 2016) (“Concluding otherwise would require us to
reweigh the evidence, a task we may not perform.”). “The ALJ was entitled to resolve 
evidentiary conflicts and did so.” Id. Indeed,
[t]he possibility of drawing two inconsistent conclusions from the evidence
does not prevent an administrative agency’s findings from being supported
by substantial evidence. We may not displace the agenc[y’s] choice between
two fairly conflicting views, even though the court would justifiably have
made a different choice had the matter been before it de novo.
Lax v. Astrue, 489 F.3d 1080, 1084 (10th Cir. 2007) (internal citations and quotation marks
omitted). The ALJ’s RFC is supported by substantial evidence.
Having reviewed the medical evidence of record, the transcript of the administrative
hearing, the decision of the ALJ, and the pleadings and briefs of the parties, the undersigned
AFFIRMS the decision of the Commissioner for the reasons discussed above.
SO ORDERED this 14th day of November, 2023.
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